The Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, Louisiana, recently offered a capsule of queer remembrance, resistance, and joy featuring paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Jacob Todd Broussard and Emile Mausner. The exhibition, Fantasy II in Exile, was named for and inspired by the early 1980s Lafayette “contemporary discotheque for interesting liberated people,” lauded in an essay accompanying gallery materials by author and Fantasy patron Martin Pousson. Curated by Jaik Faulk, the exhibition merged personal, imagined, and collective experience at the hands of two artists not yet born at the end of the nightclub’s tenure.
Laid upon a platform suggestive of altar, catwalk, and exploded closet, Emile Mausner’s sculptures of platform shoes, hot sauce bottles, award ribbons, raffle tickets, and a fractured hand mirror serve as ingredients for transmigration. In Hilma af Heel, Mausner’s deployment of the palette and imagery of visionary painter Hilma af Klint onto a platform shoe’s surface indicates the mysticism of metamorphosis. The tactile surfaces of her sculptures utilizing polychrome paper clay, wax medium, papier-mâché, and household materials give extra life in their unpolished exquisiteness, recalling artifacts from ancient civilizations. Mausner’s mirrored mosaic surfaces do what they should, creating unfixed reflections.
Nodding to the spectacles of her upbringing in Orlando, near Walt Disney World, Mausner’s sculpture Your Hostesses Are Pleased to Present, a vintage Super 8mm canister marked “XXX” and “Rosé Rosé”– sits atop a pink roll of raffle tickets, the end of which cheekily stretches out like a tongue. A creased Polaroid photo of two anonymous women baring breasts in unbuttoned blouses, one holding a flute of rosé, leans against the roll and canister, signaling joy in queer public/private spaces.
Jacob Todd Broussard’s drawings riff on swishy aesthetics of the fin de siècle, imagining events featuring departed queers such as Forrest Bess and George Dureau. Bess, visionary painter and hermit, worked as a bait fisherman on the Texas Gulf Coast. Dureau, a New Orleans artist, known mostly for photographing men (particularly of color) with amputated limbs or dwarfism. Broussard relates fin de siècle’s aesthetical radicalism to Bess and Dureau, to himself and Mausner, and to the exiles at the club. In Bait n Tackle Shack (The Hermit’s Quarters), Broussard paints Bess at the metaphysical moment of his self-surgery’s completion, emerging as intersexed; while Bess’s spirit radiates, yellow skies and green feet foreshadow slow martyrdom.
Pinks are the stuff of candied lipsticks, sultry flowers, fresh sunburns. Piquant yellows are born of Gulf Coast sulphur; glowing neons beam from disco lights passing to omnipotent sun, and back to swamp phosphorescence. Objects become subjects in paintings such as Sufferin’ Jukebox, transforming a glowing jukebox to a keeper of desire, in stained glass radiance.
While bright lighting and white walls in this gallery may seem institutional, this “un-glassed” presentation of artworks (and forgoing of individual labels for Mausner’s grouped sculptures) demonstrates trust between artwork and viewer. Portraits, objects, and stories untold are alive here, and you are invited to commune with them on the dancefloor.